LE. TROIS at Le. Gallery (1183 Dundas West), to November 19. 416-532-8467. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
When Le. Gallery opened in little Portugal three years ago, owner Will Kucey had just graduated from OCAD's criticism and curatorial practice program. Since then, he's launched an eclectic stable of cutting-edge artists, most under the age of 35, who are rapidly making a name for themselves both locally and internationally.
It's an otaku world, and Kucey's younger artists reflect the huge influence of comics, gaming, celebrity and anime culture.
Jason Kronenwald's portraits of blonds rendered entirely in chewing gum take a conceptual and cheeky bite out of celebrity culture. Graffiti artist Dalek's super-stylized space monkeys hustle around an urban sci-fi universe committing acts of cheerful ultra-violence.
Nicolas Di Genova's bio-warriors, mutated animal giants with robotic modifications, do battle in post-apocalyptic landscapes. It's as if the collective id of the Xbox generation exploded across the walls of the gallery.
This latest generation of Toronto artists also shows range. Matthew Lee Vincent's meditative Pi To 57,000 Places, with tiny hand-drawn numbers, is a work of obsessively modest subtlety, and Karen Crawford's carefully rendered perverse miniatures recall a contemporary spin on Félicien Rops. In Katie Pretti's abstracts, gatherings of subtle lines and colours are always on the verge of becoming something, while Nigel Nolan's strong representational watercolours centre on the human figure.
Some artists manage to straddle several worlds. One standout is Shawn Kuruneru, a young, frighteningly good draughtsman who works miracles with a black ballpoint pen. Blending elements of surrealist whimsy with film noir humour and a strong graphic sense, he's part Dan Clowes and part Francis Picabia, and very much a rising star. His strict sense of visual balance allows him to pull off some very odd juxtapositions that are at once lyrical and disturbing.
These are only a few of the artists taking part in this third-anniversary show. Serious art collectors should snap up pieces by these soon-to-be-known artists while they're still affordable.
This is a crucial gallery, and one hell of a show.